Don’t cause offence – or criminal prosecution – through lack of driver training
From June 2022, there has been another piece of legislation affecting fleet drivers and owners.
The ‘Causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate driving’ offence was created by the 2022 Police Crime and Sentencing Act 9, and inserted into the Road Traffic Act 1988.
This filled a gap in penalties imposed on those drivers involved in collisions, resulting in non-fatal – yet potentially very significant – injuries.
The penalty for any momentary lapse in concentration now could be a prison sentence of up to two years. A police investigation is sparked by even a minor collision involving injuries – anything from a broken bone upwards.
Drivers will be interviewed under caution in such scenarios, and during the interview, both they and their employer could be incriminated. An employer’s duty of care and driver training, plus the driving culture within a company, are placed fully under the spotlight.
The offence penalises driving without due care and attention, and lack of consideration for other road users. Taken in the context of the revised Highway Code, launched a few months before the new offence’s introduction, this demonstrates the new intolerance for lack of care. The Highway Code introduced a hierarchy of road users, with pedestrians and cyclists at the top, and heavy goods vehicles at the bottom, held responsible for all other road users’ safety.
Cases brought against the driver under the new offence can be heard in either the Crown Court or a Magistrates Court. Sentences in the former are likely to be longer, but so are proceedings – taking drivers out of the business for longer.
There is also the possible loss of a driver, through a custodial sentence, the danger of accompanying action against the employer, and the reputational damage resulting from an at-fault case. Any driver conviction will require notification to the Traffic Commissioner, with the possibility of further regulatory action thereafter. Two clear actions need to be taken by fleets. Firstly, they need to increase their focus on risk management, to seek to
prevent accidents. Drivers need in-depth training, must address their bad driving habits, and be more aware of the dangers of distractions. Routes must be planned well. Vehicle maintenance must become a bigger priority, and the legal daily walkaround check must actually happen. Drivers must be made fully aware of the new offence and give relevant training.
As importantly, a bulletproof audit trail system should be established, so all evidence of training is on file, alongside driver signatures, to verify that it occurred. Policies and procedures all need thorough review.
However, given that drivers will automatically be interviewed under caution in injury-related incidents, it is more imperative than ever that fleets also have the right legal expenses protection in place, to provide a driver with the professional help of a solicitor if required.
Put these measures in place, demonstrating that you have done everything possible as an employer to control road accidents, and you should secure greater peace of mind.
To talk to us about how best to control your risks, in light of this new legislation, please get in touch.